Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Elizabeth Haynes & Bea

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m the one on the left – my name is Elizabeth Haynes and I’m a writer from the south east of England. In the centre is our Spanish shelter dog, Bea, and on the right is my ten year old son, Alex.

The picture was taken at Seaford Head, which overlooks a famous set of white chalk cliffs called the Seven Sisters. This is very close to where I grew up, and it was Bea’s first visit to the place I know as home.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I write from a shed in my back yard. It’s quite smart as far as sheds go – and it has a coffee machine that can produce a pretty decent espresso.

I used to write in coffee shops, but since my lovely canine isn’t allowed in to most of them, I prefer to write – and drink my coffee – in the shed, with Bea for company.

What's brewing?

Today I’ve brewed a double shot espresso and topped it off with some hot milk. I’ve added some Amaretto flavoured syrup for variety, and because I need a sugar hit to get going.

Any treats for you or Bea on this occasion?

I have a ‘biscuit box’ in the shed for emergencies. Bea’s got a rawhide bone that she’s been working on for some time now.

How were you and Bea united?

A friend of mine adopted a dog through a charity that rehomes stray dogs from Southern Spain. The shelter is really overcrowded and these lovely dogs have very little hope of finding a forever home since there are so many of them. My friend Heather had such a good experience with her dog, Robert, that when we decided to get a shelter dog too it seemed the right thing for us. Bea had been abandoned at the gates of the dog pound as a pup with her siblings, and had been there ever since – two years! She came to us in April having been driven all the way across Europe in a van, and she was so timid at first. Despite having never lived in a house she coped really well. She’s such a fast learner, and so eager to please. She has been doing so well at her dog training classes, and she is such a kind, placid and loving girl – we could not have hoped to get a better dog. Here’s a picture of her [photo left] in the back of my car – terrified - a few minutes after I’d collected her from the van, and another picture of her on my knee after a walk [photo right], four days later.

How did Bea get her name? Any aliases?

The shelter had named her Beatriz, but since none of us can pronounce Spanish properly we shortened it to Bea (to rhyme with pea.) She also gets called Buzzy-Bee, Biba, Bea the Wonderdog and Superbea. In private I call her my Baby Bea.

You published your latest novel before Bea joined the household. Is there any chance a Bea-inspired dog will make it into your future work?

My characters have had cats as pets in the past and this is largely because I’ve always worked full time and therefore have had cats myself. Now I’m working from home and can have a dog, I suspect my characters will have dogs too. At the moment I’m working on a short story to promote my fourth book, Under a Silent Moon, and strangely enough a dog is going to feature in it. In fact, the dog in question is Dixi, who is our Bea’s brother and along with the other siblings Helena and Tino is still waiting in Spain in the hope of finding a forever home. You can see a video of the three remaining podenco puppies here.

Does Bea do more to help or to hinder your writing?

She is very good, actually – much less distracting than any of the cats I’ve had in the past. She follows me quietly from room to room, and when I’m in the shed writing she will be curled up in her bed in the corner, or lying outside in the sunshine if it’s warm. Bea is always ready and willing to go for a walk whenever I need a break, and since she’s still learning to play, she’s not constantly pestering me to throw a ball.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

When Bea had been with us three weeks, we heard her woof for the first time and it took us all completely by surprise. The cause of this uproar was a cat that was sitting on the fence. She will bark at anything that comes into the garden, but a cat on its own territory is merely observed with a patient curiosity. She enjoys chasing pigeons and rabbits on our walks, but if she gets close enough to catch them she lets them go about their business. She is a podenco, which is a Spanish hunting breed, so she is a natural chaser and very fast when running at full stretch.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

She’s learning to enjoy chasing tennis balls; she has squeaky toys and a plush dog, but she’s not destructive at all. She’d much prefer to just snuggle up and snooze on the couch.

Does Bea have a favorite place to go for outings?

We have a wheatfield a short distance from the house and when the wheat was growing she would run around in crazy circles through it, occasionally leaping like a gazelle above the crops to see where she was.

Who is Bea's best pet-pal?

Here she is [photo left] with LG (short for Laughing Gravy) who is a red labrador belonging to fellow crime writer Lisa Cutts.

LG is staying with us at the moment while Lisa’s on vacation. He’s about three times the size of Bea but they are very good friends. You can’t see it in the first picture but both tails are wagging!

What is Bea's best quality?

She’s incredibly placid and calm. And she has the most amazingly expressive ears – we have Dobby ears, Yoda ears, greyhound ears, bat ears – and beautiful topaz coloured eyes.

If Bea could change one thing about Kentish folk, what would it be?

I don’t think she has a problem with the people, but I don’t think she’s too impressed with the Kentish weather. It has been a good summer but I know she’s not keen on the rain and heaven only knows how she’ll cope when it starts to snow. Southern Spain, where she’s from, is hot and sunny pretty much all year round.

If Bea could answer only one question in English, what would you ask her?

Why do you insist on eating grass when you know it upsets your tummy?

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Bea could speak, who should voice her?

It would have to be Penelope Cruz. A girl and her dog can dream! Thank you so much for asking me these great questions. Bea is looking particularly fluffy and proud of herself as a result.

Read about Human Remains.

Visit the official Elizabeth Haynes website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

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